MISA-Zimbabwe statement on attacks by state-controlled broadcaster

zbc_logoMISA-Zimbabwe takes this opportunity to set the record straight following unwarranted attacks by Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) Chief Executive Officer Happison Muchechetere accusing the media and freedom of expression lobby and advocacy group of hostility and double standards against the state-controlled broadcaster.

The ZBH chief executive was quoted extensively in ZBH news bulletins this week lambasting a report on the state of public broadcasting in Zimbabwe produced by the Open Society Institute Network Publication. In its criticism, ZBH erroneously credits MISA-Zimbabwe for publication of the report in question. Muchechetere further attacks MISA-Zimbabwe for allegedly dividing the nation yet according to him, the organisation does not represent anyone in the media industry.

For the record, MISA-Zimbabwe is a membership driven organisation comprising freelance journalists and those working for both the private and public media as well as media institutions that subscribe to its mission and vision.

As for the report titled: Public Broadcasting in Africa Series: Zimbabwe, it clearly and unambiguously states that it was published by OSISA and that the survey on Zimbabwe was conducted by the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMaP), OSISA and Open Society Institute Media Programme (OSIMP).

While MISA-Zimbabwe holds no brief for OSISA, we, however, are unapologetic in the role we played in facilitating the preceding roundtable discussions that were held in Harare on 30 September 2009 to discuss the content of the draft report to which key stakeholders including ZBH were invited to participate and input into the document in question.

Muchechetere was invited to the meeting in question but did not attend for reasons best known to him nor did he see it fit to send representatives from ZBH. The roundtable discussion offered immense opportunity for ZBH to input into the draft document which was also made available to the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity for their consideration. The ministry, through which the government controls ZBH, was duly informed of the roundtable discussions and gave its green-light upon being presented with the invitation letter and draft report.

The roundtable discussions were held subsequent to the official launch of the final report in Harare on 18 November 2009 to which the ZBH was yet again invited through its CEO. While Muchechetere speaks of ZBHs unbiased coverage, the CEO and ZBH news cameras were ironically and conspicuously absent from this event at which the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was the guest speaker.

MISA-Zimbabwe works in the context of the Windhoek Declaration of 1991 in its lobby and advocacy work which among its five guiding programme areas includes the campaign for broadcasting diversity in Zimbabwe. The campaigns also focus on the need for the transformation of ZBH into a truly independent public service broadcaster as espoused under the African Charter on Broadcasting.

The African Charter on Broadcasting stipulates the need for a three-tier system of broadcasting comprising public, private and community broadcasting. The Charter demands that all state and government controlled broadcasters should be transformed into public service broadcasters that respect freedom of expression, diversity and the free flow of information and ideas.

Among its other provisions and principles, the Charter states:

Upon being transformed into truly independent broadcasters, public service broadcasters should be accountable to all strata of the people as represented by an independent board.

  • Public service broadcasters should serve the overall public interest avoiding one-sided reporting and programming in regard to religion, political beliefs, culture, race and gender.
  • Editorial independence of public service broadcasters should be guaranteed.
  • Public service broadcasters should like broadcasting and telecommunications regulation be guaranteed by bodies which are protected against interference.

It is in the public domain that ZBH has not been equal to the challenges and principles of a truly independent public service broadcaster. Several adverse parliamentary reports on the state of public broadcasting in Zimbabwe testify to that glaring deficiency on the part of the state-controlled broadcaster. The OSISA report merely adds weight to similar adverse reports produced by the Parliament of Zimbabwe and other key media stakeholders since independence in 1980.

The OSISA report aside, independent research has also been conducted by MISA-Zimbabwe the reports and findings of which have equally, freely, openly and publicly been submitted to parliament and the relevant ministry long before the OSISA report came on stream.

Suffice to say Muchecheteres diversionary sentiments and assertions on the core and critical issue at hand does not and will not detract MISA-Zimbabwe from working with the bountiful of like minds among Zimbabwean readers and viewers to lobby and push for the transformation of ZBH into a truly independent public service broadacaster.

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *